The Roland TR-808 is a legendary classic drum machine that emulates the electronic drum sounds using an analog synthesis, the 808 drum sounds can be heard on numerous famous records. The sounds this analog drum machine emulates have thumps, crispiness with no compromise to the quality.
The analog drum machine TR-808 was first introduced in 1980 but wasn’t that successful in the music industry at that time, so Roland has to discontinue the production of the 808 drum machine in 1983.
But thanks to the underground Hip Hop music which made it so popular that you can not imagine the modern electronic music without the sub-bass thump of the 808 drums and catchy 808 snare drum fills and crisp hi-hat/closed hat patterns.
An American musician/engineer Don Lewis was hired by Hammond Organ Company for demonstrating its products in the late 1960s. One of their product was an electronic organ had a built-in drum machine which was designed by the Japanese company named Ace Tone owned and founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi, but the problem users had at that time was they were not able to program their own drum rhythms on the drum machines built.
Don Lewis was popular for modifying the electronic instruments. He modified the Ace Tone drum machine in such a way that he could able to create his own rhythms on it.
Ikutaro Kakehashi met Don Lewis because he wanted to know how he modified the Ace Tone drum machine. Later o, Ikutaro Kakehashi founded Roland Corporation and hired Lewis to design drum machines.
In 1978, Roland Corporation released its first drum machine named CompuRhythm CR-78. This drum machine lets users compose, save and play their own rhythm patterns. Later on, in 1980 they released the TR-808 drum machine which was intended to use primarily for creating demos for the artists.
TR-808 Fun Facts
- Roland had to discontinue TR-808 in 1983 because of commercial unsuccess, just after 3 years since it was launched in 1980.
- Underground hip-hop musicians/DJs made it so popular that we can not imagine any modern electronic music without 808 drum machine.
- Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye and Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force were some of the first famous songs that used 808 drum sounds.
- Roland TR-808 drum machine sound is the most used drum sounds in the history of the music industry.
- The original 808 drum machine is harder to find and is still costly even after the decades since its launch.
- TR-808 are so popular that even artists use them in their song lyrics, album titles and also there is a group of hip-hop producers called 808 Mafia.
- Chief engineer Tadao Kikumoto accidentally spilled tea onto the breadboard of an 808 prototype and when the Kakeshahi turned on the machine they got that sexy lush sound of the cymbals, it took them months to reproduce that sound.
- There is a full-length documentary on this legendary analog drum machine named “808” released in 2015.